WASHINGTON — President Obama on Nov. 14 nominated Derrick Kahala Watson to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. If confirmed, he will be the only person of Native Hawaiian descent serving as an Article III judge, and only the fourth to serve in U.S. history.
Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus released the following statements:
Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), CAPAC chair: “I commend President Obama for his continued commitment to promoting diversity in our federal judiciary through his nomination of Derick Kahala Watson. Mr. Watson is a highly qualified nominee with the talent, intellect, and experience to serve the people of Hawaii, and if confirmed, he will be the only Native Hawaiian serving as an Article III judge. I applaud Sen. (Daniel) Inouye and Sen. (Daniel) Akaka for recommending Mr. Watson, and urge the Senate to move forward with his confirmation.”
Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “I applaud President Obama’s nomination of Derrick Kahala Watson to the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. This nomination exemplifies the Obama Administration’s commitment to a highly qualified bench, as well as the president’s commitment to diversity that truly reflects America. As chair emeritus, I thank President Obama for his leadership with this nomination …
“Watson brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from his robust career in the legal field, especially in his background with civil justice and rights. I now urge the Senate to act swiftly in confirming Watson’s nomination to ensure a more diverse representation in all branches of government.
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii), CAPAC whip: “I am proud that President Obama has continued his support of women and minorities with his nomination of Derrick Kahala Watson to serve with Hawaii’s federal judiciary. As a Native Hawaiian and a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, Mr. Watson reflects our state’s diversity and a rich heritage that values links to our host culture. He brings with him a fine reputation as an attorney, and I look forward to getting to know him better as his nomination proceeds through the confirmation process.”
Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), CAPAC Education Task Force chair: “Congratulations to Mr. Watson on his nomination by President Obama. If confirmed, this Kamehameha Schools graduate would become the only Native Hawaiian federal judge currently serving. It is important to see that qualified individuals from diverse communities are able to serve our nation in a variety of ways.”
Pacific Islanders and Native Americans are absent from the federal judiciary. No Native Hawaiians currently serve as Article III judges, and no Native Americans serve on the federal bench. Watson, who is currently chief of the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii, would break that trend. His prior experiences include private practice in San Francisco and several years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. Watson also served in the U.S. Army Reserve and was a captain in the JAG Corps from 1998 to 2006. After attending the Kamehameha Schools, he went on to Harvard College and Harvard Law School.